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Black History Month

Get to Know Tessa Thompson, the Afro-Latina changing Hollywood for the better

Tessa is an outspoken, intellectual, and beautiful Afro-Latina changing Hollywood for the better.

In honor of Black History MonthHOLA! USA will be spotlighting some amazing Afro-Latina’s. First is Tessa Thompson who was born in the city of stars, on October 3, 1983, and was raised between Los Angeles and Brooklyn.

The actress was born to an Afro-Panamanian father and a mother of Mexican descent who Tessa said helped her take pride in being a Black woman. Her multiracial identity has helped fuel her roles in blockbuster hits like Dear White People (2104), and her portrayal as civil rights activist “Diane Nash” in Ava DuVernay’s historical drama Selma (2014). In addition, she is one of the stars of Westworld, the popular HBO science fiction Western.

Tessa Thompson in HBO's "Westworld" season three©John P. Johnson/HBO

Along with being a talented actress, she is a singer and songwriter. Something she got from her father Marc Anthony Thompson, who is the founder of the musical collective Chocolate Genius, Inc. The stunning actress is relatively private with her personal life but she is an intellectual free thinker, and an outspoken activist, that is already leaving a long-lasting impact on Hollywood. Here are some things you should know about Tessa.

Tessa struggled with racism and hate for the color of her skin and the texture of her hair but her Mom was there to tell her was beautiful.

She is an activist

Tessa appeared as “Bianca Taylor” in Creed (2015) and Creed II (2018) and gained mainstream recognition around the world once she was apart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with her role “Valkyrie” in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). While many could find it easy to sit complicity with their newfound fame and platform, Tessa went to work. In 2019 she played a major instrument in the formation of the “Time’s Up” movement against sexual harassment. At the time, the Thor actress challenged actors and producers to work with more female directors in the next 18 months, “Because only 4 percent of the top 100 studio films over the last decade have been directed by women.” “Times Up is initiating a challenge, the 4 percent challenge, and I intend to take it,” she said. “I commit to working with a female director in the next 18 months.” Jordan Peele, Reese Witherspoon, and Rosie Perez followed suit shortly after. The movement has since raised millions in legal defense funds.

Her mother of Mexican decent helped her find pride as a Black woman

At the 11th annual ESSENCE, Black Women in Hollywood Awards Tessa acknowledged her mother. Her mother grew up at a time where it was not only encouraged, but safer to assimilate. “I want to acknowledge someone who is not Black and is not in the room because she couldn’t be, but it’s my mother,” the actress began. “Her father, my grandfather, was of Mexican descent. He was a performer in a time where there were very few of them. He was the only, very often, and I think because of this, he had a real pressure to assimilate because he didn’t want my mother to speak Spanish.” She continued, “My mom is a woman of color even though she might not be readily identified as such and I feel like because of that, she always gave me space to explore my identity; get in touch with who I am. She understood the void of not having enough guidance, in that. Even though she is not a Black woman, throughout my life, she filled me with such pride of being one.”

Tessa struggled with racism and hate for the color of her skin and the texture of her hair but her Mom was there to tell her was beautiful and supported her when she wanted to try relaxing her hair. “She told me that my broad features and my brown skin looked beautiful when classmates did their best to convince me otherwise. She went to a beauty supply store with me, where she bought an eco relaxer, which we were prepared to apply together. But she was proud and patient when I decided I wanted to keep my then crusty, crunchy, over-gelled curls. Because she realized that being the fullest expression of yourself is an act of bravery. She wanted me to be brave and because of her, I aim to be.”

Tessa Thompson is making big moves behind the scenes. The Sylvie’s Love actress has launched a new production company, which already has a first-look deal with HBO and HBO Max©GettyImages

She dates men and women but doesn’t label her sexuality

Tessa opened up about her sexuality in the past but told the Independent she hopes that one day someone‘s sexuality becomes “immaterial.” In an interview with Net-a-Porter, she said she said she had dated men and women but wasn’t expecting it to turn into the coming out headline story that it did. “The thing for me is, I was just speaking candidly,” she says. “Some people categorized it as coming out or something. And I have never been in, so I don’t know what that means.” “There were a lot of people that said, ‘Oh she’s bisexual.’ I never said that word, because I don’t think in those binaries.” Tessa is however thankful for the positive impact her candidness has had on others struggling with their identity and explained, “But I have had a lot of people say, ‘That’s my experience and you really set me free. You helped me have a conversation with my family.’ And that I’m so happy for. I think it’s hugely important, and that’s why I felt it was important to be candid in that way because I have been so lucky to have a family where you can be whatever you want to be. So many people don’t have that, don’t have a support system, and are really riddled with so much shame. They can’t really love in the way they wanna love, be who they wanna be, and so it’s important, I think, to say that it’s okay.”

(L-R) Tessa Thompson, Evan Rachel Wood, and Thandie Newton attend the Los Angeles Season 3 premiere of the HBO drama series “Westworld”©GettyImages

What’s next for Tessa:

Tessa’s latest film, Sylvie’s Love, which she starred and executive produced, is available to stream now on Amazon. She is currently filming Thor: Love and Thunder starring Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, and Natalie Portman where she is reprising her role as Valkyrie.

This week it was announced Netflix acquired the worldwide rights to the Sundance film, “Passing,” starring Tessa and Ruth Negga. The film was directed by Rebecca Hal and was based on the novel by Nella Larsen, the movie follows two African-American women who can pass as white and choose to live on opposite sides of the color line in 1929 New York.

Finally, Tessa will be moving into production work with her new company, Viva Maude. According to Deadline, the production company has partnered with HBO and HBO Max on a two-year, first-look deal that will first be taking on adaptations of the books Who Fears Death and The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.

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